Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane

Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck are sent to Shutter Island, where a patient has disappeared after escaping from a high-security prison for the criminally insane. But at every stage of the investigation they are frustrated by staff who don't seem particularly interested in capturing the escapee, and inmates who can't or won't provide reliable testimony.

This is my third Lehane book, and it's very impressive that all three have been different in style. This is set in the 1950s, and the story takes place over four days and all on the island (well, not counting flashbacks) so feels a lot more constrained than the previous books.

This reminded me a lot of All Quiet on the Orient Express, because, like that book, there's a sense that something rather nasty is happening, or going to happen, but it's not really clear what. Because many of the characters in the book are supposed to be insane, you can't be certain of whether things they tell Teddy have any truth in them or not, and so you don't know whether to take their statements seriously. I enjoyed the way that quite a few things in the book were ambiguous, and might mean that Teddy's got something to worry about, but could well be explained perfectly rationally.

Unlike All Quite on the Orient Express, you do get a reveal at the end, and after the way the tension has built, it's a little bit of a let-down. I'm not sure how else it would have been possible to end the book and still make it believable though.

As the story progresses it becomes clear that Teddy has motives for coming to the island which are not simply connected to the crime he's been sent to investigate. Much of this is told with flashbacks or dreams that Teddy has, and I started off by feeling these were a bit tedious. But in fact they did turn out to have some justification.

So until the end-game, this was another success - I really enjoyed it. Have bought the DVD and will watch the film.


I'm not sure all the loose ends were tied up. For example, Edward (Teddy) Daniels name is supposed to have been derived from an anagram of "Andrew Laddies". But if either of those two names sounds made up, it's the second. The same applied for the name of the escaped prisoner: again there were two names, with one sounding plausible and the other made up. And the "made up" one was, we're asked to believe, not the anagram. This meant that when I was reading it, I was thinking "aha, we're being told that these names are anagrams, but that's all part of the trick: it's obviously the other way round". This, and a couple of other things, led me to expect a further twist at the end, which never came. So it did sort of feel a bit of a missed chance.

Completed : 18-Mar-2013 (audiobook)

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